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Rod Davis wins another award, for lifetime achievement serving veterans

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 by Randall Williams

In the years since 2003 when NewSouth Books published Rod Davis’s first novel, Corina’s Way, we have taken pride and pleasure in seeing him recognized in the literary community for his work as a writer, including as a book critic and columnist. Highlights of his career to date include receipt of a PEN/Southwest Award for Corina’s Way and his induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. Davis added a different kind of award to his portfolio last week, when he received the Bill Pearson Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Association of Veterans Education Specialists. A Vietnam Era vet, Davis co-founded and served as director of the Texas A&M University System’s Veterans Support Office (VSO). The award recognizes “individuals who have made outstanding contributions through constructive participation in veterans’ organizations, thus demonstrating a deep sense of caring for the veteran,” WAVES president Tracy Copeland told the Texas A&M University System News. The News notes that under Davis’s leadership, “the A&M System VSO provided coordination, communication and guidance to the system’s 11 universities and engaged in outreach on veteran education support issues throughout Texas and nation.” Congratulations to Rod on this most-deserved humanitarian honor.

Jacqueline Trimble wins 2016 Balcones Poetry Prize for debut collection, American Happiness

Friday, July 14th, 2017 by Randall Williams

In a bit of great news, American Happiness, recently published by NewSouth Books, wowed the judges of the Balcones Prize, winning the 2016 award for Jacqueline Allen Trimble in the poetry category. The judges at Austin Community College said of her work, “Hers is a refreshing voice. Her poetry is intimate and irony-filled.” They add, “Trimble should never be taken lightly — but, darn it, her poems are so often funny.” Certainly, Jackie Trimble does not take receipt of the award lightly. She was overjoyed about it, especially given the caliber of the poetry award finalists — Claudia Rankine, Bryce Milligan, James Galvin, and Martin Espada — sevand the many greats who were previous winners (Natalie Diaz and Mark Jarmon, to name just two). For Jackie Trimble, the Balcones Award follows receipt of the 2016 Seven Sisters Book Award in the poetry category. The Seven Sisters Book Awards recognize “the stories of women and those who tell them.” The award was established by author Lynne Hinton in 2015.

American Happiness is available from NewSouth Books, or your favorite bookstore.

Frye Gaillard adds Jefferson Cup Honor Book for Go South to Freedom, film documentary about Journey to the Wilderness to list of credits

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 by Randall Williams

Award-winning author Frye Gaillard is enjoying a banner year: his book Go South to Freedom has just been named a Jefferson Cup Honor Book for young adult readers by the Virginia Library Association. The Jefferson Cup honors a distinguished biography, work of historical fiction or American history book for young people. Presented since 1983, the Jefferson Cup Committee’s goal is to promote reading about America’s past; to encourage the quality writing of United States history, biography, and historical fiction for young people; and to recognize authors in these disciplines.

News of the award reached Frye as he was on the road filming a television documentary based on his book Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters. Produced by Mike Letcher of Dragonfly Public Media, the program follows the footsteps of Gaillard’s ancestors who fought in the Civil War. In the film Gaillard reflects on the Civil War letters written by his great-great-grandfather and other family members, noting, “My own generation was perhaps the last that was raised on those stories of gallantry and courage. Oddly, mine was also one of the first to view the Civil War through the lens of civil rights.” The film is being produced in partnership with The Center for War and Memory at The University of South Alabama for public television.

In other news, Frye Gaillard has just put the final touches on his forthcoming memoir A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope and Innocence Lost. In this book, Gaillard gives us a deeply personal history, bringing his keen storyteller’s eye to this pivotal time in American life. A Hard Rain is due out from NewSouth Books in spring 2018. He is presently at work researching the life of Benjamin Turner for his first illustrated children’s book, a project he’s collaborating on with Marti Rosner. The Slave Who Went to Congress will be released by NewSouth Books in fall 2018.

Go South to Freedom is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Historians in Service of a Better South honors Paul Gaston, author and activist

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 by Brian Seidman

Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul GastonHistorians in Service of a Better South, new from NewSouth Books, has as its subtitle “Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston.” The book is a Festschrift, a collection of essays by Gaston’s students and colleagues over his long career at the University of Virginia and through his long-time involvement in civil rights causes. Robert Jefferson (Jeff) Norrell and Andrew Myers edited the book.

Gaston himself sent a video message to the contributors and to NewSouth, thanking them for what he called a “handsome book.”

Gaston joined the history department of the University of Virginia in 1957, teaching Southern and civil rights history until his retirement in 1997. His involvement in civil rights and social justice began with his role as a community organizer and participant in protest movements and sit-ins during the 1960s. At UVA he led student and faculty efforts to dismantle segregation. He served as research director of the Southern Regional Council; he was a member of the SRC’s executive committee from 1974-1998 and presidentfrom 1984-1988.

Books by Paul Gaston include The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award), Women of Fair Hope, Man and Mission: E. B. Gaston and the Origins of the Fairhope Single Tax Colony, and Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea, all published or returned to print by NewSouth Books. He also contributed essays to Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent and Dixie Redux, itself a Festschrift to scholar Sheldon Hackney.

Contributors to Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston include Edward Ayers, Raymond Gavins, James Hershman, John T. Kneebone, Matthew Lassiter, Gregg Michel, Lynda J. Morgan, Stephen O’Neill, Robert Pratt, Steve Suitts, Randolph Werner, Myers, and Norrell.

Gaston called Historians in Service of a Better South “something that I never imagined I would have.” He said, “Thank you … for publishing a book that’s so important to me. I hope it will be important to others.”

Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

NewSouth author Richard Bailey honors African American heroes Horace King and Lillie Mae Bradford

Friday, March 31st, 2017 by Lisa Harrison

Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags: Black Officeholders During the Reconstruction of Alabama 1867-1878 by Richard BaileyRichard Bailey, author of Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags: Black Officeholders During the Reconstruction of Alabama 1867-1878, honored the legacies of two influential African Americans recently.

In February he helped to unveil a portrait of Horace King, a former slave who became an architect and designed the distinctive spiral staircase of the Alabama Capitol building. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, King used bridge-building techniques to design the staircase so that a central support was not required. King later served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives, from 1868-71. Bailey notes that this is the first portrait of an African American that will be on permanent display in the Capitol.

Bailey also helped to dedicate the gravesite of King in LaGrange, Georgia, at the Mulberry Street Cemeteries. He told the LaGrange News that King was “a man who did so much and asked for so little,” noting that the builder helped construct the bridge that connected Columbus, Georgia and Phoenix City, Alabama.

More recently Richard Bailey spoke at the funeral of Lillie Mae Bradford, who refused to move from the front section of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested for disorderly conduct years before Rosa Parks. Bailey told the Montgomery Advertiser, “She wasn’t part of any movement, and that makes her action more outstanding.”

Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Steve Flowers given Medallion Award by National Association of Secretaries of State

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 by Lisa Harrison

Of Goats and Governors by Steve FlowersAlabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill honored noted political commentator Steve Flowers with an award from the National Associations of Secretaries of State for Flowers’s work as a legislator and political columnist. The award recognizes people who have “contributed extensively to the elections process.”

Flowers was honored for his sixteen years of service in the Alabama State Legislature, during which he was voted the “Most Ethical Member of the House” (1988), the “Most Outstanding Freshman House Member” (1988), and the “Most Outstanding Member of the Alabama House of Representatives” (1992), and for his work as a writer and speaker. Flowers has addressed national audiences, and has a weekly column that is carried by over sixty Alabama newspapers. Flowers also hosts the television talk show “This Week in Alabama Politics.”

NewSouth published his book Of Goats & Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories in 2015. Steve continues to cross the state speaking about the antics of legendary Alabama governors George Wallace, “Big Jim” Folsom, and John Patterson, among others. His award is a tribute to his devotion to all things political in the state of Alabama. Congratulations, Steve!

Of Goats & Governors is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Carson McCullers turns 100. Poet Sue Brannan Walker gets busy.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017 by Lisa Harrison

It's Good Weather for Fudge by Sue Brannan Walker2017 is already proving to be a busier year than most for Alabama Poet Laureate Emeritus Sue Brannan Walker. January saw the publication of her imaginative long-form poem It’s Good Weather for Fudge: Conversing with Carson McCullers, with an introduction by McCullers scholar Carlos Dews, released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of McCullers’s birth on February 19.

Fittingly, the first official event for the new book was hosted by the Georgia Center for the Book — Columbus, Georgia being the birthplace of Ms. McCullers. Walker will present at the Alabama Writers Symposium and public libraries in Mobile and Demopolis, Alabama, traveling to New Orleans, New York City, Georgia again, and beyond for other events. A most-anticipated stop will be in Rome, Italy this coming summer, where she will be a featured presenter at the Carson McCullers Centenary Conference hosted by John Cabot University.

In addition to her activities recognizing the McCullers centenary, Walker wrote the script for a Eugene Walter Reader’s Theater program, which premiered last month to an SRO crowd in the new Hilton Garden Inn Eugene’s Monkey Bar & Grill in Mobile. Walker’s script was based on Walter’s short story, “The Byzantine Riddle.” Next month, a new book of Walker’s poetry, Let Us Imagine Her Name, is due out from Clemson University Press. Whew.

Byzantie Riddle cast and writer Sue Brannan Walker

At the “Byzantine Riddle” premiere, writer Sue Brannan Walker (second from right) and performers (from left) Tom Mason, Carolyn Haines, Nancy Anlage,
and Jordan Noon.

It’s Good Weather for Fudge is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Leslie W. Dunbar

Thursday, January 5th, 2017 by Brian Seidman

Leslie DunbarWriter, professor, and civil-rights activist Dr. Leslie W. Dunbar died January 4, 2017 in New Orleans, three weeks from his 96th birthday.

In the turmoil of the 1960s, Dunbar worked with the Southern Regional Council, helping — among other initiatives — to create the Voter Education Project; the project is credited with registering two million African American voters. Later that decade Dunbar directed the Field Foundation, dedicated to child welfare and civil rights, including funding Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dunbar also taught political science at a number of colleges and universities, and worked with the Ford Foundation. Even after “retirement,” he continued to be active in political and social justice causes. He is the author, editor, or contributor to at least nine books, including from NewSouth Books Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent; American Crisis, Southern Solutions: From Where We Stand, Promise and Peril; and Looking for the Future: A Meditation on Political Choice. In summer 2016 NewSouth also published a collection of tribute essays, Leslie W. Dunbar: Reflections by Friends, that included a message from Congressman John Lewis among others.

Friends and family remember Leslie Dunbar, including his son, author Tony Dunbar.

American Happiness named award finalist; author Jacqueline Trimble featured in Cave Canem blog post

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

American Happiness by Jacqueline TrimbleAmerican Happiness has been selected as a finalist in the Seven Sisters Book Awards, which recognize talented female authors in seven categories. President Lynn Hinton notes that the awards celebrate the stories of women and the women who write them, and says she is excited about this second year of the awards program.

The award judges, however, aren’t alone in praising Trimble’s “grown-woman poetics,” a phrase we borrow from the outstanding blurb author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers contributed to the book. There are also the insightful comments that came to us from Jennifer Horne, another strong poet/writer. “Trimble’s grace,” she says, “is in the anger distilled to the bitter draft you savor as it bites, in thinking to ask whether Jean-Paul Sartre ever asked Simone de Beauvoir to go to the Winn-Dixie, in the fairy tales she rewrites and the myths of America she questions.” Amen, and may the best woman win.

And in related news, in a blog post on Poetry Foundation’s website, Cave Canem, perhaps our nation’s premier organization dedicated to supporting African American poets, asked its writer members to recall 20 years back, to the days of the founding of the group. Read the article by Tyehimba Jess and discover what Jacqueline Trimble had to say about Alice Walker . . . and the importance of washing dishes.

American Happiness is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Who tells your story? Frye Gaillard talks about the role of historian for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Go South to Freedom by Frye GaillardIn an interview with SIBA’s Lady Banks’ Commonplace Book newsletter, author Frye Gaillard talks about the craft of historical novelist. Gaillard’s new book for young readers, Go South to Freedom, relates an “as told to” slavery story, shared with him by an elderly neighbor.

The award-winning journalist and prolific author told Lady Banks that journalism always involves “writing somebody else’s story” and requires treating the material with care and respect. He describes the additional research into historical events and the people mentioned in the tale that he did in preparing to write Go South to Freedom. The research helped educate him about the so-called “Black Seminoles” and about the community of free blacks that lived in Mobile, Alabama many years before the Civil War. In the end, as he told Lady Banks, the most important aspect of a true story is to keep it alive.

Go South to Freedom is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.